Shut Up. And Sell.

Posted by on January 14, 2013

BigArmBigEyes-BeagleUse half as many words and they’ll hit twice as hard.

Every writer knows it.

Salespeople need to learn it.

A few weeks ago I invested a day of training in the telephone staff of a client of mine and doubled their close rate as a result.

“You’re working way too hard at it,” I said. “These people are calling you, remember? They’re calling you because they believe your company can solve their problem. In your mind, you’re being enthusiastic. But you’re coming across as anxious and nervous and defensive and combative. You’re not talking these callers into buying from you, you’re talking them out of it.”

Selling is a transfer of confidence. The seller must transfer his or her confidence in the product to the buyer. When you babble, you don’t sound confident.

When you act like the customer has asked the wrong question, you’re basically telling them that they’ve hit you where you’re weak.

Always answer questions AS ASKED. This means that you should focus your energies on providing the simplest answer in the fewest words. If your customer wants to know more, they’ll ask you a follow-up question.

Pennie and I know a woman with a 13 year-old son who recently said to her, “Mom, what is cunnilingus?”

With no hesitation whatsoever, she answered, “That’s when a woman gives sexual pleasure to another woman.”

He shrugged and said, “Oh,” and the conversation was over.

Had our friend raised an eyebrow, acted surprised, gotten flustered, or asked, “Where did you hear that word?” the whole thing could have escalated into something it didn’t need to become.

Our friend is a brilliant woman who gave a simple answer to an innocent question. She didn’t read anything into it. She is, in my opinion, an example of the perfect salesperson for 2013.

When you provide simple and straightforward answers to your customer’s questions, they feel that you’re there for them. But when they provide ears for your rambling monologues, they begin to feel they’re there for you.

Be there for your customer. Don’t make them be there for you.

I was going to write a book about this, but then I found it has already been written. Dan Pink is a brilliant researcher as well as an insightful and entertaining writer. I haven’t yet read his newest book, To Sell is Human, but I did read the transcript of an interview he gave NPR.

“We have this idea that extroverts are better salespeople. As a result, extroverts are more likely to enter sales; extroverts are more likely to get promoted in sales jobs. But if you look at the correlation between extroversion and actual sales performance — that is, how many times the cash register actually rings — the correlation’s almost zero. It’s really quite remarkable.

“Let’s think about a spectrum on a scale from 1 to 7, where 1 is extremely introverted, 7 is extremely extroverted: The 6s and 7s — the people who get hired, the gregarious, backslapping types of the stereotype — they’re not very good. OK, now, why? … They’re just spending too much time talking. … They don’t know when to shut up. They don’t listen very well; they’re not attuned to the other person; they sometimes can overwhelm people.”

The art of selling has changed more in the past ten years than in the previous hundred.

Ten years ago, we had to rely on the seller to provide expert information. Today we’re just a few clicks away from anything we want to know.

Salespeople are certainly necessary, but the roles they play have changed dramatically.

Next week I’ll be teaching a 2-day workshop at Wizard Academy, “How to Advertise in a Noisy World.” I could just as easily have called it, “How to Sell in 2013.”

If you can’t come to Austin for the workshop, you should at least buy Dan Pink’s new book. Based on the interview he gave NPR, I’m betting it’s really good.

Ciao for Niao,

Roy H. Williams

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